ELA: Zines!

Zines are a very flexible medium that can be used across the curriculum as a vehicle for students to communicate their learning, share their ideas and express themselves. Here you’ll find a basic zine lesson plan with suggestions for ways to customize the plan to suit your unique classroom.

ONE: Introduce the Concept of Zines

Introduce the genre of zines by sharing the “What’s a Zine?” video and a selection of zine maker videos from the Video Gallery. As a class, examine examples of zines in the Zine Gallery. Invite students to share what they observe about the visual quality of the zines, about the topics covered and the reasons people make zines.

TWO: Choose a Zine Project for Your Class

INFORMATIONAL ZINE – Invite students to take an existing project and translate it into a zine format as a way to share their learning with the community. For example, if the class studied natural disasters, students could create informational zines to help the community understand and prepare for a natural disaster.

LITERARY ZINE – Celebrate student writing by asking students to look back through their writing portfolio and select the works they are most proud of to feature in a literary zine. Literary zines can be created individually or students can each contribute a page to a single class zine.

SOCIAL ISSUE ZINE – Are your students engaging with current events and contemporary social issues? Challenge students to create a zine that shares their position on an issue, includes evidence to support their opinion and ends with a call to action. Throughout history, self-published pamphlets and booklets (like Martin Luther’s 95 Theses), have proven a powerful way to shape public opinion.

VISIONS OF THE FUTURE ZINE – Invite your students to think about the future they want to see whether it’s their own future or the future of our city or planet. Writing down our goals and dreams, and then sharing them with others is a powerful way to help bring our vision for the future into reality. Do they imagine a future where they go to college and then travel the world as a journalist? A future where everyone in Denver has enough to eat? A future where they invent technology to solve climate change? Students’ goals and dreams can be anything and will vary by age group. Encourage students to use both words and imagery to express their vision of the future.

PERZINE – A “perzine” is a personal zine that shares one’s life and perspective. This type of zine makes a great “getting to know you” project and gives students the opportunity to freely express themselves. Zine educator Dylan Scholinski recommends this format for an 8-page mini perzine: Front and Back Covers: Create whatever image/text combination that expresses who you are. Inside pages 1-2: Share something about your past that you feel is important. Pages 3-4: Share something from your life right now that’s important to you whether it’s something you’re proud of or just something you’re interested in. Pages 5-6: Share something about your future goals. Hear Dylan discuss this zine project and his experiences teaching with zines in the “Using Zines in the Classroom” video.

SPEEDY STORY ZINE – Folding a mini zine out of a sheet of paper and then telling a quick short story on the inside pages is a fun learning activity when you’ve got a few extra minutes. Give students each a sheet of paper, a pencil and a pair of scissors. Show the “How to Make a Mini Zine” video and have students follow along. You may need to play the video several times to ensure all students get the hang of making a mini booklet. Next, give students a writing prompt to spark their story. This could be a silly image, a compelling first line like “When I opened the door, I found a strange package on my doorstep” or a topic like “the first day of school.” Remind students that zines are a creative space where it’s okay to try something new, makes some mistakes and start over if you don’t like what you’ve made!

THREE: Choose a Format

Decide on a format for your zines: mini zine booklets (video instructions here), stapled booklets or whole sheets stapled together along one edge. There is truly no wrong way to make a zine. If you’re planning to make copies of zines for students to share, mini zine booklets made with 11″ by 17″ copier paper are our favorite choice as they’re a nice size and don’t require any collating or staples!

Mini Zine Templates

Use these templates to help students plan their zines and/or to make their finished zines. These templates can be folded using the video instructions above.

IMPORTANT: When printing these templates, make sure to select “actual size” or 100% scale on the printer dialogue box.

FOUR: Make Zines!

Have students plan out their zines using one of the mini zine templates above or a plain sheet of paper.

Next, invite students to use plain paper, pens, markers, old magazines, scissors, glue, tape, staples and anything you find in that old neglected cupboard to make their zines! Remind students to write neatly so the readers of their zines will be able to understand their work, or have students use a computer to type and print text to glue into their zine.

Pro Tips: Pencil marks can be hard to photocopy, so have students go over pencil lines with a black pen or marker. When selecting a paper size, we find that using sheets of 11″ by 17″ paper yields mini zines that are easier to read, but using standard letter paper will still work.

FIVE: Share your zines!

Zines are meant to be shared! Use the school copier to make copies of student zines so they can share them with friends, family and the community.

BONUS: Host a Zine Marketplace

Help your students develop financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills by coordinating a Zine Marketplace using this curriculum from the youth entrepreneurship experts at YouthBiz: Zine Marketplace Guide

Assessing Student Zines

Special care must be taken when assessing any student project that involves self expression. When evaluating a perzine (personal zine), it’s important that the student not feel like the grade assigned to the project is a critique of him or her as a person, thus an approach that simply looks at whether the project was completed or not can be the best approach.

General Guiding Questions for Evaluating Zines:

  • Is the text legible?
  • Does the sequence of text and images make sense/meet the assignment guidelines?
  • Is the information accurate?
  • How complete is the information given?
  • How well has the student combined text, imagery and layout to create an overall effect?
  • How clearly does the student express his or her viewpoint?
  • How well does this zine convey information?
  • How eye-catching is this zine? If I saw it at a coffee shop, would I want to pick it up?